Preventing Bird-Borne Diseases

HOW do people get the avian flu? Avian influenza viruses circulate among birds worldwide. Susceptible birds can become infected with avian influenza virus when they have contact with contaminated nasal, respiratory, or fecal material from infected birds. They then shed the virus in their saliva, nasal secretions, and feces.

HOW do people get the avian flu? Avian influenza viruses circulate among birds worldwide. Susceptible birds can become infected with avian influenza virus when they have contact with contaminated nasal, respiratory, or fecal material from infected birds. They then shed the virus in their saliva, nasal secretions, and feces.1

Nearly all of the reported human cases of the avian flu have involved contact with infected birds: butchering or plucking chickens, eating undercooked poultry, or spending time in areas contaminated with the blood or droppings of birds.2 Other bird-borne diseases are ingested by breathing airborne spores of bird feces.

Entomologist research has found more than 60 transmittable diseases and dangerous parasitic organisms that can be fatal to some people and cause others to fall ill. When dried-out droppings are disturbed, a cloud of airborne dust carries microorganisms into the lungs, causing inhalation diseases such as histoplasmosis, which is the most common of the diseases associated with pest birds. Eating or drinking foods that have come into contact with bird-related bacteria can cause ingestion diseases, such as toxoplasmosis and query fever.3West Nile virus has been detected in dead birds of at least 138 species. Although infected birds—particularly crows and jays—can die or become ill, most infected birds do survive.4

What can someone do to stay safe? Because we can’t easily know which birds or animals are infected with disease, care should be taken when in a potentially risky situation. Use gloves when picking up dead birds or mammals, or grab the carcass with a plastic bag and then invert it to the inside of the bag. Contact your county or state health department. If these personnel want the dead bird or animal, they will make arrangements to come get it. If not, it’s best to double bag it in plastic and put it in the trash.5


¦ Avian Flu
¦ Fowl Typhoid
¦ Infectious Coryza
¦ Paratyphoid
¦ Salmonellosis
¦ Streptococosis
¦ Tuberculosis
¦ Aspertillosis
¦ Blastomycosis
¦ Cryptococcosis
¦ Histoplasmosis
¦ Trypansomiasis
¦ Toxoplasmosis
¦ Trichomoniasis
¦ Chlamydiosis
¦ QFever
¦ Encephalitis
¦ Meningitis
¦ Newcastle Disease
¦ Pox
¦ Taeniasis
¦ Dispharyxiasis
¦ Eyeworm
¦ Schistosomiasis
¦ Acariasis

How can safety managers help? They can protect employees from the dangers associated with roosting birds. Whether on ledges of manufacturing plants or other work sites or in the rafters of warehouses of all kinds, bird droppings are a health hazard that can be alleviated by using a variety of bird control devices. When choosing among bird control systems, follow these steps:

¦ Analyze the problem. Identify the type and number of birds causing the problem. Note the areas where they are landing and roosting. Eliminate food and water sources if possible. This may be accomplished by keeping buildings and grounds free of trash. Make sure all garbage receptacles and dumpsters are kept closed. Ground puddles, standing water on roofs, and clogged gutters are areas that will attract birds, and they are relatively easy to eliminate. Other water sources, such as fountains and ponds, may be difficult to take away and may need to be protected with bird netting. Many buildings and structures located near city parks have bird problems; it can be helpful to contact your city and propose a no-feeding ordinance to help reduce the number of birds in the area.

¦ Research available products. Choose a reliable company that offers free technical support and installation plans. Don’t make your decision on price alone. Consider maintenance costs, product lifespan, and installation costs when comparing price and value.

¦ Consider using a combination of products if necessary. The products you choose depend on the size and number of birds, the types of areas you wish to protect, and a host of other factors. “Porcupine wire” and bird netting are effective, durable, and economical, providing they are of quality construction and installed properly. Pin and wire, non-lethal chemical repellents, and scare devices have their place in some situations. Sticky pastes and ultrasonic devices are not recommended.

¦ Plan the installation properly. Decide whether you want to install the bird control products yourself or have a qualified contractor do the job. Either way, make sure that all areas have been carefully measured per manufacturers’ instructions to ensure that you order the correct amount of materials.

¦ Treat droppings with caution. Protective clothing, gloves, and respiratory masks should be used when working around bird droppings. Thoroughly cleaning, disinfecting, and deodorizing the surface is imperative in order to protect people from infection. It also discourages pest birds from following the scent back to their old roosts. When dealing with large quantities of bird guano, it is recommended to check with your local health department for proper disposal methods.

Product Alternatives
Porcupine wire
When used properly, porcupine wire is one of the most effective, versatile, and long-lasting forms of bird control available. There are many applications for this type of repellent: building ledges, parapets, roof ridges, gutters, signs, awnings, air conditioners, rafters, shutters, and almost anywhere a bird can land. Be careful when choosing a porcupine wire product. Some of the deterrents are constructed of all high-quality stainless steel, some are made of plastic, and others use a combination of the two. The stainless steel models cost a bit more, but the longevity they provide is worth it. Plastic can become brittle when cold and soft when hot and will eventually deteriorate from direct exposure to sunlight.

Look for a deterrent that will repel birds of all shapes and sizes. Many of the porcupine wire products available have large gaps between the wires, and small birds may be able to sit or nest in between them. To avoid this situation, it is very important to choose a product that has 120 points per foot, strategically configured close together and pointing in all directions. It is critical to protect the entire surface area. Don’t hesitate to call your supplier for planning assistance.

Bird netting
If you have an open warehouse, building, or overhang where birds are getting up into the rafters and beams, bird netting is an effective and economical choice. When choosing netting, it should be strong and lightweight, with openings 3/4 inch square or smaller. Larger openings may not prevent smaller birds such as sparrows from getting through. Make sure the netting is a dark color and ultravioletstabilized to reduce deterioration from exposure to the elements.

Safe chemical bird repellents
One manufacturer offers safe chemical bird repellents under the names MigrateTM and Fog ForceTM. These are formulated from a food grade ingredient, methyl anthranilate, a naturally occurring compound with reduced risk to the environment. Migrate and Fog Force are regulated by EPA under FIFRA (the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act).

Fog Force™ Bird Repellent is a fogging agent that is an efficient tool for the management of nuisance birds without harming target and non-target birds or other animals. As a proactive method, it does not depend on birds to taste the repellent by eating treated food. Thermal or mechanical fogging of Fog Force™ relies on the exposure of the birds to the fog. After several exposures to the fog, the birds generally leave the area completely and do not return for the season. Automated fogging systems inhibit any future re-infestation from new bird populations and ensure a birdfree environment.

Migrate™ for Turf is a tool for the behavior modification of Canada geese (Branta Candensis). As a taste aversion agent, Rejex-it® Migrate™ changes the taste of the grass to make it unpalatable to geese. This causes the geese to leave the area completely to find better feeding and living conditions.

Sticky paste and liquid repellents
The author does not recommend these products for a long-term solution. Over time, the compound will discolor and attract dirt, bugs, and debris, which will drastically reduce the product’s effectiveness. When this happens, the compound will have to be cleaned up and reapplied.

Post & wire bird deterrent
This type of system can be very laborintensive. Post and wire barriers generally blend in well but should be used only for repelling large birds in very light pressure areas. In heavy infestation situations, birds can roost and build nests into the wires. These systems work best when covering very narrow surfaces such as railings, along balconies, and where there is moderate human activity.

Some companies have modified the wire systems to transmit a low-voltage current through the wires to help repel the birds. This type of system is more effective but very expensive to install and requires considerable maintenance. If not installed properly, the electric wires may present a fire hazard.

Ultrasonic devices
Ultrasonic devices are not recommended for effective bird control. If you are considering using this type of system, do some research and get legitimate references.

Scare away devices
Owl statues, balloons, and reflective strips used to scare away birds may work for only a few days or maybe a week, if you are lucky. The scare balloons seem to work better than the owls because they move around with the wind. You may find it helpful to change the balloon position and color frequently to help prevent the birds’ getting used to them.

1. avianflu.htm
2. Consumer Reports Medical Guide .com, January 2006.
3. National Pest Control Association Inc., 1982 Bird Management Manual
4. Centers for Disease Control Web site
5. National Audubon Society, 2005 “West Nile Virus,” bird/wnv/

Helpful Links Flu/WBAvianFlu.htm

This article originally appeared in the June 2007 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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